Monday, May 28, 2012

When Life Gives you Lemons....

Eat them for breakfast lunch and everything...lemons...mmmm (yep - that's what I've been doing the past week+)

We've been sick around here...terribly, nasty, super ack sick. Viral cold / flu sort of thing. Thankfully, the kids have done very well with it. Everett is doing fine- a sneeze here and there. David has had a little congestion and slight dry cough. Mary Louise had a bit as well but has been controlled with her preventative medications and a night dose or 2 of cough syrup. Both David and Mary Louise had a fever for a few days and were quite grumpy and whiny (understatement) but their appetites have remained on track and pretty steady.

I, on the other hand, had fever for a few days, a sore throat that quite literally kept me from swallowing anything other than warm lemon / honey and broth for about 3 days, no voice at all for 4 days and now have a wildly sexy cough that I'm sure my neighbors can here. My goals each day have been: 1. keep the kids alive and cared for, 2. rest as much as possible.

We did survive Brent leaving town for 2 nights in a row. (by survive, I mean we did ok - then the sickness set in so he stayed close to home this week to lend a hand).

So, we've had fun. yeah. Ok. Honestly, it's been a rough 10 days or so - but there were some funny moments:

We had our own American Idol performance:

(I should tell you that to date, I've never seen a full showing of AI...even though Josh Ledet's home town is spitting distance from my house...I'm just not into it.)

oh - and Mary Louise is learning how to negotiate...or demand whatever:

I missed the really funny part - when the boys were quiet and Mary Louise was super serious about asking Brent for a swimming pool...and big girl panties...that child is a fire cracker. I do declare!

I went downstairs the other morning. Mary Louise and David had been down there for some time with Brent. Brent was getting ready for work, and I noticed immediately that the house seemed really quiet...dun dun dunnnn!! I made my way to the laundry / bathroom and found my sweet babies there: "queenin'" (cleaning)...they had helped themselves to a bottle of continuous Febreeze spray and some sand paper and were just going to town "queenin'" the sink, toilet, floor and their step stool. No, I did not fuss - just stood there a minute in the fumes and finally, very gently, asked for their "supplies" and explained, again, that they were not to go into the laundry room without Mommy or Daddy with them. (the laundry usually stays closed as it's the one room in our house that is not at all child proofed).

I needed a shower...badly...the other day. Everett has targeted my hair as his number one place to spit up. Yes, my hair is almost ALWAYS up on top of my head. Yes, he STILL manages to smear curdles behind my ears and then drip them down my back. Thanks kid. At least I've learned where to look - lest I get some super stink eyes if and when I must enter the public realm. Sneaky buggar.

Anyhow - back to the shower. I stole one. Literally. 3 minutes of panicked bliss. Everett was napping and Mary Louise and David were ***supposed to be playing in their playroom. I turned off the water and heard tiny people chatter:
ML: "NO Da-bid! My cut mine OWN hair dis time!"
D: "Move Meese! Mine turn to turn da fan on!"

Super. I smiled (after my stomach dropped of course as I thought of just how long it has taken Mary Louise to grow any notable amount of hair at all). Never have I been so proud of skimping on the kids' art supplies. When I was in the store looking at children's scissors, I noticed we had 2 options: some really great ones that would literally cut as well as my kitchen scissors, or the crappy dollar kind that are hinged really loosely and have trouble cutting even paper - much less hair. I knew the hair phase was coming. I also knew the kids had been using scissors at therapy and wanted their own at home. Cheap scissors that won't really cut much? Yes please! Smiles all round!

The fan? Mary Louise and David had quickly broken into the guest bedroom when I turned the shower on...I swear they scheme and wait for these moments...they were jumping on the bed and pulling the fan cord. The fan was at tornado speed when I walked in and found Mary Louise hacking away at one of her pigtails and David in mid jump.

It's really a hard not to giggle a little when I catch them in "the act". Their faces are ridiculously priceless.

Everett is getting really big. He is just starting to "coo" a bit, grin with purpose on occasion, and will push through his legs and bounce when I stand him in my lap. His head control is great - he does continue to "plop" down every so often, but has begun to use his entire upper body to push up and look around. He can turn from side to side when lying on his back as well. When I dangle a noise making rattle or toy above him, he tracks really quickly and can hold a rattle for just a few seconds.

Nursing is getting a little easier. I am still needing to pump at least 3 times per day, but I was saving up to 24 ounces (AFTER feeding) last week and this week have noted a little less (18 to 20 ounces). I tried to cut out a pumping session - but I felt horrible that day and the next and worried about mastitis...then I got sick. I was able to sleep through 2 nights just waking to nurse - without the extra pump session which was nice.

We got through Everett's 6 week growth spurt. I literally did nothing but try to keep the house from falling down around us, sit on the sofa and nurse (he literally nursed 10 hours out of 24 during one day), and deter Mary Louise and David from drawing on any and every flat surface here. (Oh Magic Eraser, you make life just a little less stressful sometimes). My chunky monkey (or "normal-ish kid" whatever works) is out of newborn diapers and I'm having to re-adjust the leg elastic and rise in his cloth diapers again already. He can still fit in newborn onesies - but the snaps are working pretty hard - and the "footie" ones are too short for him already.

Happy Memorial Day and many thanks to the service men and women who give of their life and time so that we may have ours. You are appreciated.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Let's talk Politics

This is an area about which I rarely speak out. I don't keep up with all areas of politics. I don't spend mounds of time researching backgrounds of candidates, on moral and ethical forums, and hashing out the level of corruption in various areas of government gives me a headache. I know...I should (and might become) more involved. I generally brush the surface of areas that might effect my family directly, but really, it's just reading - not doing. I have opinions, but they are mine, not yours. I appreciate that and, unless provoked or blatantly asked, I don't go around blurting out my political beliefs (blog excepting - this is my area - if you don't like it, move on - that's the beauty of having about 9 zillion blogs to choose to read right?)

So, there are a number of budget cuts "on the floor" right now. You can read the very abbreviated list to get a gist of the "tone" of cut backs here:

And, I can offer my opinion of said tone:
embarrassing. I'm pretty sure anyone, ANYONE mind you who reads this list can very quickly surmise that the areas of money skimping all have one thing in common: vulnerable populations. The very young, and the very short: non-voters.

These are not just cut backs. They are cut offs. Programs that assist elderly with activities of daily living, provide meals for those that might not be able to provide nourishment for themselves, and help with  general care while allowing these people (PEOPLE) to live out their days in the comfort of their own homes and continue to have what's left of the autonomy they so deserve - gone.

Our Early Steps program - gone. GONE. This would mean that a 24 week baby could go home without follow up. A child with profound disability could just sit at home for 3 years with parents that simply lack the guidance or knowledge - or funds - to help their baby. Early Steps not only provided us with services, me with education and exercises, but also with the peace of mind after such a long hospital stay, that we would have a few more opinions to consider. Early Steps helps foster children, low income and high risk children, children with congenital anomalies, autism, cerebral palsy, and many many other "rough beginnings" to get on track during their first 3 years. The program, as it is structured, works. The only issues I've had have been differing in opinion with the therapists on occasion.

These people helped me to teach Mary Louise to eat instead of gag on things. They helped me help my children to learn to walk, to facilitate their muscle development upon their homecoming to simulate the womb growth. In our 2 years of being essentially homebound, these therapists became a solid part of my support system.

Our case worker? Holy moly. This woman worked tirelessly with me for 3 solid years. She offered mountains of information and leads to assist with seeking out insurance for David, private services when I felt that was what we needed. She followed up via email, phone, and in person. She graciously opened her heart to our family and I still talk to her and she STILL checks on us - even though it is no longer "her job". She is nothing short of family. Her compassion for us is nothing short of amazing. She does all of this while caring for her own family, her own 2 children, one of whom has special needs.

From what I've seen and learned, she is not alone in her passion for this program. Many MANY of our therapists have had children in special circumstances. It is through their personal experiences that they came to find "their calling" as Early Steps service coordinators and service providers.

My friends, this makes these people some of the most valuable employees a company can have. They have a vested and intensely personal interest in seeing this system not just coast along, but succeed, and even get better with time.

Though I wish that spreading this information could save their jobs...and I'm sure they wish the same, the truth is that budget cuts made to our DHH (department of Health and Hospitals) system a while back have all but insured that many of their positions will no longer exist. Yet, they continue to work and beg for the basic program to remain. They appeal to their public to keep Early Steps in place so that some children (there will minimally be cut backs and stricter entrance requirements) may still be helped during such a formative time.

The fact is, in our area, we have 2 (that's two) facilities that provide therapy services to children. One accepts Medicaid. The other only accepts private insurance. Children are placed on waiting lists in the order of their requests for services - not in order of need. The one David attends accepts only private insurance. We were taken in there in a week or 2. In contrast, for those who quite simply can't afford the literally hundreds if not thousands of dollars necessary to receive this critical therapy, they are put on the waiting list for the other facility. David was on the waiting list for both places at one point. The second facility called 2 weeks ago to say that he was at the top of the LIST!! not that there was an appointment - but that he was finally next in line! (I got him on that list in August of 2011.) We have a few pediatric specialists in this area - no developmental pediatricians - and if I am concerned about something, I make so many phone calls to insurance companies and primary care physicians just for our referral that it is literally integrated into my "job" as a mother. "who do I call this week??"

Keep in mind here, I am a nurse. I have access to many MANY health care professionals and have a total "type A" personality when I comes to my children's health. I will literally get them help at all costs. If I don't like opinion A, I will absolutely seek out opinions B, C, and D. We travel wherever we need to get care for our little ones - and let's be completely honest here and point out that all things considered, Mary Louise and David are pretty low risk these days. Many people simply don't have the back ground, support (financially and emotionally) to do as such.

Oh and about all of those "money saving" cuts:
The first 3 years of a child's life can literally set the stage for their entire existence.

Beyond those 3 years, many issues can be identified and TREATED not PREVENTED. In case you are unaware of the difference between the 2: money. (in a business sense only of course).

Imagine dumping a 3 year old who is unable to communicate (verbally or otherwise) in "mainstream school", and child who cannot eat independently, and sweet baby who simply hasn't had physical therapy and never received those crucial work outs and therefore is now wheel chair bound rather than walking. The child who can't communicate? Beyond the obvious issues with finding a way to "know" this child, the teacher must then figure out how to facilitate learning with this over frustrated, severe introvert who has no idea what to do with feelings, emotions, and cannot communicated his own personal needs. Eating? Teachers- do you have time to make sure or try to work with a 3 or 4 year old that doesn't eat? Are you going to try to coax each bite down that babies' throat? Beyond time, do you feel qualified to do this? (even special education teachers answer here.) These children would then be in a position to need interpreters, assistants, special accommodations in the classroom. These accommodations, of course, would be the bare minimum. Teachers are already over loaded. Putting more children in their classrooms with more intense individual needs would not only cost more money, but also draw needed attention from the other students. At what point did our precious teachers become baby sitters?? (that's more of a thought than a question - ha - no need for an answer to that one).

Many of the Early Steps goals (if not all of them) keep in mind the greater, broader goal of readying this child for the classroom and beyond. The therapists offer a vital hand in the early molding of these "high risk" children into contributing members of society. They offer information needed to cater to our special needs and ensure that these children become the best individuals they can be. They offer a line of confidence to parents trying to muddle through systems they never wanted to know existed - but are nonetheless thankful for the olive branch.

It does certainly take a village to raise a child. One of our pillars is at critical risk for being demolished. I am embarrassed, ashamed and wholeheartedly disappointed at the targeted constituents at risk here. Civilized societies, by definition, care for and respect their "weakest" populations. The elderly - oh my, how much can we learn from their vast experiences? Endless. The young - our future. No other words needed.

How can you help?? You can write to your Senators - tell them why these programs are so needed!

You can also sign a petition to keep (in particular) Early Steps up and running:

Make no mistake, we are all effected by these cuts.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this - and to take action.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So very grown up.

My sweet babies. I see you growing into such beauties, right before me. Part of me begs time to rewind. Part of me wants to know what tomorrow will bring and (a huge) part of me just wants to stop, savor the moment just a little longer...then just a little a little longer...

Brent gave me such a wonderful Mothers' Day. We all made it to church...on time!! That alone is such a monumental feat these days. Mary Louise and David played in the nursery for about 30 minutes during the service before I went to get them. They cooperated beautifully when I brought them in for Communion.

Just before church, Brent sent them in the laundry room (where I was folding a last load) shouting "Happy Mothers' Day Mommy!!" and carrying gifts. They were so proud...and so excited that they sped through the greeting and tore into the packages for me! ha. Brent had let them choose a little pendant for me - a sweet sterling monkey figure that hangs from its tail on a chain. A monkey from my monkies. I made the connection out loud a little later in front of Mary Louise who immediately looked confused (she calls the pendant "Monkey George".) She shrugged and said, "No my can be a monkey Momma." Then looking around her backside and feeling her rump, "my have no tail! Der's no tail back der Momma. No my can be a monkey!"

This morning (Tuesday), David looked up at me and said, "My would yike an orange outside Mommy. Juicy orange outside please!" and then..."go upstairs and read a book?" All with his big boy haircut (which you may have noticed streaking by in the Mother's Day video - he was so very good for it - and with 3 kids total and an exhausted Momma waiting, being good and cooperating must be noted and commended!). Brent got him a pair of Cahart overalls last week. Dressed in those, the little baby boy that I swear was just there, disappears totally and a handsome young man, wide eyed and ready takes that baby's place.

David has also developed an - uhem - rather forceful response to things that bother him: after "fussing" which usually includes a mess of words about half of which one can understand, he points in a sideways gun sort of stance with his pointer finger and thumb, narrows his eyes and says very loudly, "UNDA-DAND?" (understand - in case there was any question)...hmmm. I have no idea where he picked up this little quirk...**cough cough Brent cough**

We went to a nearby park yesterday. One that has a walking track and larger structures to play upon. We set up a picnic lunch and Mary Louise and David played on the toys. They obediently stayed where I could see them while I fed Everett and listened each time I requested they do something a little different or stopped them from using areas not suitable for their age or size. After lunch for all, we walked around the track stopping to feel different plants, smell flowers, look at rocks, smush around in a bit of mud. We also pulled grass and weeds and talked about them, clapped for runners tromping by, and just talked about our day in general - all with sweet Everett happily in tow in a sling carrier.

Mary Louise and David are gaining strength and agility all the time. This has been a long road for us. Between being  contained in an isolette for just over 3 months, missing out on those last few months of muscle development during pregnancy and eye surgeries bringing peripheral vision into question (only time will tell how much peripheral vision they actually have - they should compensate over time, however).

Yesterday, they climbed up and down ladders and stairs without issue, they balanced across cracks in the boarders around the play equipment and can now dangle for a number of seconds from a bar or set of rings.

We also had a first harvest of carrots this week. Mary Louise and David planted seeds a couple of months ago. Though small, the carrots were certainly enough to nibble on - and Mary Louise and David munched away with greens still sticking out of the tops! (at least I got to wash the actual carrot first!) We are in the process of turning over our little veggie gardens and went to the store yesterday as a family to choose our next crops. Our "big kids" get so excited to see their hard work pay off in the way of a fresh snack...or sometimes a full dinner - we've had salad mixes and lettuce growing for quite some time now and often eat large salads for dinner. They help me cut the herbs and onions we have continually growing and wash them for me so that I can add them to soups, stews, or whatever else we're cooking.

Everett is getting big already!! He has filled out (right through his lovie lovie cheeks) and keeps his eyes open for longer and longer periods. He is going through a bit of a gassy / colicky stage right now - likely related to my continued over production of milk - but is doing very well otherwise. He rarely fusses - and there is always a reason for it if he does - and loves, more than anything to simply stay close to our (mine and Brent's) hearts in a carrier or sling. He can track sounds appropriately by turning his head and eyes toward a voice or toy and is working very very hard to gain more head control - already rarely "plunking" his noggin down after lifting.

Mothers' Day was his actual due date. Hard to believe he's actually 5 weeks today.

Mary Louise and David seem to be exploring and grasping the concept of love. They say, "I love you" often, offer kisses and hugs, realize that they "love" favorite things such as their froggies (ML has a green frog she carries around everywhere and we all know David's attachment to his NICU froggies). Love - such a vast concept. I know they will continue to define, and redefine it over their life time - but it's really interesting to see that first buds of such a profound feeling, thought process, attachment style, philosophy...I'm pretty sure my little guys are once again teaching me much more than I'm teaching them!

They notice EVERYTHING now:
We have to be quite careful in our language, not just what we say, but how we say it. We offer praise to them for making their own decisions, getting dressed by themselves - regardless of style (though I have to admit that I do limit their drawer contents to at least climate appropriate clothing) and following "rules" such as picking up after themselves (A++ kids!! I will refer to this post during the toils and frustrations of teenage sleep fests! - they DID at one point pick up and clean - therefore they have a base to return to...phew. therefore they have a base to return to...)

The other day, I was changing Everett. Mary Louise gets a little stool from the bathroom so that she can see and help with each diaper change. She leaned into Everett's face, looked beyond and announced in an "I just had an epiphany" type voice, "Everett's "hoo hoo" is dus yike David's! My "hoo hoo" not yike David and Everett's." Ok - forgive the, umm, less than technical term we use to reference genitalia. I never thought it'd go quite so far as to have our 3 year olds using it...actually, I didn't think much about it at all until Mary Louise said this - obviously needing some way to verbalize what she was thinking. Oh Freud would have a field day...

Anyhow, David has actually made similar - and independent - observations during the last week. (oh, and if you're wondering, they can also match colors, textures, puzzle shapes and toy groups more consistently these days - ha)

So, 3 years later, we're doing just grand. The local March of Dimes is this weekend and we are excited to participate in the festivities.

As always, there is much to be thankful for around here.


P.S. The Louisiana government has made severe budget cuts to various programs recently. I wanted this to be a personal post, but will dedicate the next one to a more detailed description of the cuts and how you might be able to help. Please stay tuned!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tummy Time

This term "tummy time" used to make me cringe when Mary Louise and David came home. In practice, ML and D acted like it was nothing short of torture. Admittedly, I also thought it was totally ridiculous that someone had actually coined a term for something that parents would typically do instinctively anyhow. Really? does EVERYTHING need a formal name?

So, here we are with Everett who is trying to look around like crazy. (Ok, I absolutely realize he's a little hungry here and rooting) He's spending more and more time in the afternoon awake and alert so Mary Louise, David and I are having great fun playing with the little guy - doing exercises, just talking to him and, of course, encouraging strengthening movements.

So much fun! Way to go my strong little guy!!

Speaking of strengthening, I walked a bit (about a mile - maybe just over) this afternoon pushing the stroller with the 2 "bigguns" and with Everett tucked safely in my Moby. It felt good to be out for a stroll again and I look forward to some longer walks and getting back into running (somehow) in the months to come (just waiting on that pesky Dr. clearance now!)


Weekend o Fun

Now that I have your attention...

We're doing just fine here. We even survived Brent's first night away for work. Mary Louise and David slept in their bed until about 11pm and then came running in to join me "in da big bed". No matter, I was up and feeding my munchkin anyhow. "The big kids" eventually ignored my activity and drifted off to sleep. I was amazing to be surrounded by my little lovies all night - and even more amazing to actually get a few hours of sleep with 3 kids 3 and under in my immediate midst.

Everett is absolutely amazing - and I realize how many times I've said that. He just fits so perfectly in our family. Mary Louise and David (no less amazing of course) have continued to shower him with affection: kisses, gentle love pats, alerting me (just in case I might miss something) of any concerns they have about him. Mary Louise absolutely insists on helping with every diaper change. David even offered his froggie to a fussy E this morning and appeared so proud when Everett calmed with the weight of the positioner on his belly.

They still love to "hold" Everett:

(how long do you think it'll take for Everett to pass David in growth?)

Everett has been having some gas issues. (I mean really - not only is he a newborn, but also a LeBlanc. The flatulence cards were certainly stacked against him: see early videos of ML and D!) It bothers him a little - but not enough to warrant intervention other than a nice belly massage or some baby yoga poses (wind pose) for a minute or 2. He's definitely a sleepy nurser. But it's slowly getting better with time. Right now, he nurses most of the morning and most of the evening with a relatively short break for his long(er) nap mid day. He seems very happy, very relaxed most of the time. He does wake quite a bit at night - but also allows a few decent stretches of sleep which is nice. I'm hoping for a little more with some time - and once we get past the first 2 months of wild growth spurts.

Somewhere along the way of Everett's birth and our subsequent hospital stay, Mary Louise and David learned about hunger. They have been eating like mad since we came home! I'm excited to say that our "meals" have become a bit less stressed and more child initiated (rather than me saying, "I think maybe you should eat a little something as you haven't in a number of hours..." and then frustratingly putting a small portion of whatever we have available out for them.) One thing does remain constant: these guys do much much better with fewer choices at a time. We put small bowls of single food options on their little table. They can eat what and when they want, then are offered a new option once the first one is almost done.  The key is to offer foods before they get really hungry - which is where their new habit of requesting food comes in handy. If anyone begins to pitch a "hunger" fit, we're out of luck. It's just nice to see them getting a little more excited about eating - and making their own healthy choices.

We had a great day of painting outside this week:

And of course we had to find a way to "get clean" afterward:

I have to mention here that I made a quick phone call to Nanny Pan during this painting session. My side comments during the call included - but were not limited to:
"If you put that in your nose, Mommy will have to dig it out with Q-tips"
"Please don't lick the paint brushes...anymore"
"Don't stick it in your ear either"
"Mary Louise, that's not makeup - and does not really belong in your eyes...incidentally, make-up doesn't really belong in your eyes either"
"I think you have enough paint in your hair"
and finally
"Please don't paint the house, my shoes, blankets, the outdoor furniture and please please don't paint baby Everett. Can you maybe paint him a picture on your PAPER instead?"

(don't think it was all negative - they were praised completely for their mixing and naming of colors, great use of space and clean up efforts - the picture came out really beautifully and we had a grand time discussing and telling stories about it)

"All qu-een!" (clean):

Once a real bath was had, we went to get the mail - Granny's birthday surprises came!! (and can I just say that "real" money is apparently one of the BEST gifts EVER (other than "pack packs" of course - which hold the "real" money nicely):

Mary Louise and David have been asking for days to "go to da gwo-cee dora to buy somp-ing?" (go to the grocery store to buy something...ha - you can tell these kids don't get out that much right?)
Mommom made an all to quick trip in this weekend to offer a break and a hand for Brent and I. We ran a few errands with just Everett in tow. We were even able to sneak away after bath time for about an hour for a quick bite to eat!

Some amazing outside time was had - outside "baths" (yes. that is a NICU bath tub - crazy right?)

On Sunday, Brent and I became god-parents to Philip - who is about 6 weeks older than Everett:

I dressed Everett up in a less than masculine outfit...because there are only about 3 months in which a baby can pull off such an outfit...and well, because he looked so stinkin' cute in it!!

His new Wub-a-nub:

The proud papa's:

We were so excited!

(Allie is their daughter and she is about 5 months older than Mary Louise and David - they are all great friends)

Winner of a weekend.